Restricted mining in tropical forests
Government issues measure to protect biodiversity in the Amazon and on the Pacific Coast.
Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro from June 20-22 this year, set the scene for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to announce restrictions on mining concessions for 17.6 million hectares (43.5 million acres) in the Amazon rainforest and on the Pacific Coast.
“We have been developing our environmental policy, strengthening it, making decisions like the ones we’re announcing today: 17.6 million hectares [43.5 million acres] that we are declaring a strategic mining reserve”, the president said at a June 21 press conference. “It’s a very important area, especially in places where there is a wealth of biodiversity, because they are areas that are in the Amazon region.”
The measure includes the departments of Amazonas, Vaupés, Guainía and Vichada in the southeast, and El Chocó in the west. The restricted lands represent half the total area of the five departments.
According to Frank Pearl, minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, the resolution prohibits granting new concessions, but does not touch the 49 existing ones.
“Those in line for a title ... probably aren’t going to see it”, said Pearl, but “vested rights are respected.”
For his part, Minister of Mines and Energy Mauricio Cárdenas said that in his ministry there are about 900 applications for deeds to exploit minerals in these five departments, including uranium and platinum, and that the government’s goal is to curb the uncontrolled exploitation driven by the growing demand for these strategic minerals. —Latinamerica Press.